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The Absurd Primacy of the Automobile in American Life

Biking ElsewhereConsidering the constant fatalities, rampant pollution, and exorbitant costs of ownership, there is no better word to characterize the car’s dominance than insane.

By EDWARD HUMES, The Atlantic

The car is the star. That’s been true for well over a century—unrivaled staying power for an industrial-age, pistons-and-brute-force machine in an era so dominated by silicon and software. Cars conquered the daily culture of American life back when top hats and child labor were in vogue, and well ahead of such other innovations as radio, plastic, refrigerators, the electrical grid, and women’s suffrage.

A big part of why they’ve stuck around is that they are the epitome of convenience. That’s the allure and the promise that’s kept drivers hooked, dating all the way back to the versatile, do-everything Ford Model T. Convenience (some might call it freedom) is not a selling point to be easily dismissed—this trusty conveyance, always there, always ready, on no schedule but its owner’s. Buses can’t do that. Trains can’t do that. Even Uber makes riders wait.
...

Accounting for all costs, from fuel to insurance to depreciation, the average car owner in the U.S. pays $12,544 a year for a car that puts in a mere 14-hour workweek. Drive an SUV? Tack on another $1,908.14
...

[Even more examples on waste and absurdities of the Automobile.]
http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/04/absurd-primacy-of-the-car-in-american-life/476346/

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Guess who wants to teach cyclists a lesson?

Biking ElsewhereBy Jenifer Joy Madden, Greater greater Washington

...
The sub-sample’s rationale for aggressive behavior had two prevailing notions about cyclists:

They "had it coming"
They "needed to be taught a lesson"
Some of their sample comments:

“They need to obey highway rules EXACTLY the same as anyone driving.”
“Unsafe bicycle riding is the greatest single hazard in my community.”
“I don’t trust bicyclists in any way.”
“It’s like they dare you to hit them.”

In describing his soon-to-be-published research, Piatkowski observed that, among those exhibiting what he termed “corrective behavior,” they did not specify what lesson they were attempting to teach cyclists. He posits their motivation might be “crime as social control,” or using a crime as a means to enforce social norms. A similar example is placing a chair in a public parking space and calling it your own, then vandalizing any other cars that park there.
...

https://ggwash.org/view/62238/guess-who-wants-to-teach-cyclists-a-lesson-bicycle-backlash
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2016 Motor Vehicle Deaths Estimated to be Highest in Nine Years

Biking ElsewhereVia National Safety Council

​For the first time in nearly a decade, preliminary data from the National Safety Council estimates that as many as 40,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016. That marks a 6% increase over 2015 and a 14% increase over 2014 – the most dramatic two-year escalation in 53 years. ​

An estimated 4.6 million roadway users were injured seriously enough to require medical attention, a 7% increase over 2015. This means 2016 may have been the deadliest year on the roads since 2007. Estimated cost to society was $432 billion.
...

NSC is calling for immediate implementation of life-saving measures that would set the nation on a road to zero deaths:

* Mandate ignition interlocks for convicted drunk drivers and better education about the nature of impairment and when it begins
* Install and use automated enforcement techniques to catch speeders
* Extend laws banning all cell phone use – including hands-free – to all drivers, not just teens; upgrade enforcement from secondary to primary in states with existing bans
* Upgrade seat belt laws from secondary to primary enforcement and extend restraint laws to every passenger in every seating position in all kinds of vehicles
* Adopt a three-tiered licensing system for all new drivers under 21 – not just those under 18
* Standardize and accelerate into the fleet automotive safety technologies with life-saving potential, including blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and adaptive headlights
* Pass or reinstate motorcycle helmet laws
* Adopt comprehensive programs for pedestrian safety
...

http://www.nsc.org/learn/NSC-Initiatives/Pages/Fatality-Estimates.aspx
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When it comes to traffic safety, fun beats fear

Biking ElsewhereBy Andrew Carpenter, City Lab, April 15, 2016

Being a pedestrian is, unfortunately, an increasingly dangerous proposition in many communities throughout the United States. A recent report from the Governors Highway Safety Association shows that, just between 2014 and 2015, pedestrian deaths grew 10 percent.

In many regions, public safety campaigns are a go-to tactic to address the widespread issue of pedestrian safety. But the current, most prevalent approach of “fear appeals” – attempting to scare people into safer behaviors – has not been effective. Changing human behavior is no small task.

Routine tasks involved in commuting develop into automated habits, undermining the belief in many campaigns that road users make rational safety choices based on logic, information or fear. Such an approach tends to place the safety burden on the most vulnerable road users and remove it from drivers.

In the D.C. region, the Street Smart campaign [which they also use in the Baltimore area], for example, has come under fire in the past as being counterproductive for its use of fear-based messages directed at pedestrians and bicyclists.
...

In August 2013, the dynamic message board at the intersection, which had previously warned drivers of the dangerous merge, changed its message to something simple that pointed directly at drivers’ immediate actions: “Do not hit the car in front of you.” Though it seems laughable, accidents at that intersection actually dropped significantly in the following weeks.
...

Properly placed and engaging signals with direct, positive messaging can bring safety back to the forefront of people’s minds and have them actively consider their behavior. However, to change the roots of bad driving and long-standing, culturally ingrained habits, planners will have to shift the built environment itself in order to encourage the best possible actions from road users.

https://mobilitylab.org/2016/04/15/traffic-safety-fun-beats-fear/
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What if the money we spent on cars went for something else?

Biking in BaltimoreVia BikeMore, Priorities: Southeast Transportation Vision Wrongly Puts County Residents First

[B' Spokes: In BikeMore's post there are some maps that demonstrate what you can get in bike infrastructure improvement if you take the same money for a very small cars only project and then they do the same thing again for bus improvements vs another cars only project. The difference is very striking.]

https://www.bikemore.net/news/priorities-southeast-transportation-vision-puts-county-residents-first
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GUIDE TO BENEFITS OF BICYCLING

Biking Elsewhere-> A recent Biking Expert blog, Ultimate Guide To The Benefits Of Biking, includes health, environmental, financial and social benefits. http://bit.ly/2krRlZU

from CenterLines, the e-newsletter of the National Center for Bicycling & Walking.
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SAN FRANCISCO, CA TRUCK SIDE GUARD INITIATIVE

Biking in Baltimore-> "Vision Zero San Francisco, CA Truck Side Guard Initiative: Technical Assessment and Recommendations" summarizes Volpe's research and recommendations supporting San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) efforts to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety through side guards, vehicle-based safety devices designed to prevent pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists from being run over by a large truck's rear wheels in a side-impact collision. http://bit.ly/2kLmO90

from CenterLines, the e-newsletter of the National Center for Bicycling & Walking.
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SLOWER SPEED LIMITS MOVE MORE TRAFFIC, CUT PED CRASHES

Biking Elsewhere-> The Urban Reality blog reports on a study conducted by the Helsinki, Finland City Planning Department. (Speed Management in Helsinki: http://bit.ly/2kLJzKd) The 2004 study noted since the early 1970s, the number of traffic fatalities per year has dropped dramatically in spite of doubling of car mileage. Speed management has been the most important single factor behind this development. Helsinki originally reduced speed limits on their highways in 1973 and cut the number of pedestrian crashes in half. After a series of interim speed reductions on various types of roads, the city reduced all its 50 & 40 km/hr speed limits to 40 & 30 km/hr (25 - 18.6 mph) in 2004.

The study notes slowing down cars can actually move more people who are driving as the capacity of a lane depends on the intervals between successive vehicles. The slower the leading car drives in front of a queue, the closer the next car can follow. It looks like the optimal speed in urban street network for capacity is somewhere between 30 and 40 kilometers per hour. http://bit.ly/2kHfmMt

from CenterLines, the e-newsletter of the National Center for Bicycling & Walking.
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SEATTLE, WA DOT: TRUCK SIDE GUARDS TO PROTECT PEDS & CYCLISTS

Biking Elsewhere-> City Lab reports The City of Seattle DOT will put side guards on its trucks to protect cyclists and pedestrians. Side guards, or panels on both sides of a truck reduce the risk of serious injury or death by preventing pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcycles from being caught underneath a large truck in a side collision. Of all vulnerable road users killed by large trucks, nearly half of bicyclists and more than one-quarter of pedestrians first impact the side of a truck. These guards also improve fuel economy by up to 7 percent. The Cities of New York, Boston, Cambridge, and San Francisco have taken steps to make truck side guards standard equipment on city vehicles. http://bit.ly/2k11x6V http://bit.ly/2k12ufJ

(See Resources section for 3 papers related to truck side guards and bicyclist and pedestrian safety published by Volpe in 2016.)

from CenterLines, the e-newsletter of the National Center for Bicycling & Walking.
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LONDON, ENGLAND: UNDERCOVER BIKE COPS TO ENFORCE SAFE PASSING

Biking in Baltimore-> CityLab reports this spring, London, England's Metropolitan Police are sending undercover officers out on bikes to monitor and enforce more careful driving around bikes, and reprimand drivers' behavior. The main goal is to crack down on so-called close passing—that is, drivers overtaking bikes at a distance of less than 1.5 meters (just under 5 feet). Motorists caught engaging in driving that compromises cyclists' safety will be given the choice between prosecution or a 15-minute roadside safety training session. http://bit.ly/2jyGf3J

from CenterLines, the e-newsletter of the National Center for Bicycling & Walking.
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